Wondering where to use handrails? Although this may seem like a daunting task, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have laid out very detailed standards regarding the installation of handrails. Although they’re somewhat easy to overlook, handrails are an important safety consideration that can help make your building more accessible, comfortable, and welcoming.
If you’re exploring how handrails might fit into your new construction or renovation project, you can rely on the expertise of your contractor, architect, or engineer. These experts can help you understand where to use handrails, how to select the right railing product, and other safety considerations you need to keep in mind. To start these conversations with a little knowhow, review the information below.
Where to Use Handrails
Requirements by Height
OSHA’s main goal is to keep employees safe at work, which is why the organization has strict requirements for commercial buildings. According to the most recent OSHA standards, employers must have at least one handrail and stairway railing for stairways with four or more risers. The same standards apply for stairways that are 30 inches high. And yes, you must have both a handrail and a stairway railing; both are necessary for safety. While the handrail offers support as a handhold, the stairway railing acts as a barrier to prevent falls from the sides of stairways.
Requirements by Width
OSHA also has requirements for stairways based on their width. First, stairways that are less than 44 inches wide with exposed sides must have railings on each side. Secondly, stairways with enclosed sides that are less than 44 inches wide must still feature a descending rail on the right side. Stairways that are greater than 44 inches wide – but less than 88 inches wide – must have one handrail on each enclosed side and one stair railing on each open side. Finally, stairways that are greater than 88 inches wide must have one handrail on each enclosed side, one stair railing on each open side, and one stair railing located midway through the stairway.
The ADA has several requirements for handicap ramp railings. First, ramps with a rise greater than six inches – or a horizontal projection greater than 72 inches – must have handrails on both sides. Those ramps must also feature handrails on both sides of each ramp segment. Additionally, ramps with switchbacks are required to have continuous inside handrails for patrons to grip. There are also requirements on the construction of the handrail itself. For example, handrails must be free of sharp elements that could injure patrons.
Showers and Bathtubs
If your business features showers or bathtubs, it’s important to make them as accessible as possible. The rim of an average attached bathtub is around 18 inches high. For that reason, it’s important to equip the walls of bathtubs with handrails to assist patrons entering and exiting tubs. Individual stall showers are usually much safer for handicapped patrons, but they should still have vertical bars just inside the shower door jamb to help patrons enter and exit. At least two other bars are also recommended inside of stall showers to assist elderly or handicapped patrons. Even though the average shower lip is only about four or five inches, it can still be hazardous for individuals with mobility issues.
Again, keep accessibility in mind when deciding where to use handrails. Toilets can present a problem for individuals who have trouble sitting or standing. That’s why it’s important to position two bars on the wall next to the toilet –one a few inches above the seat and parallel to the floor and another perpendicular to the end of the first bar – when possible.
Especially if your residence will be home to someone with mobility issues, you might find it helpful to add handrails to atypical places as well. So in addition to stairs and ramps, consider adding handrails to showers, around toilets, along pathways, etc.
Still have questions about where to use handrails? Contact your contractor for assistance. Aluminum Handrail Direct offers high-quality, maintenance-free aluminum handrails and accessories. With more than 15 years of experience in the industry, we can help you choose the right railings for your application. We’ll even ship your handrails directly to you to make your building process as easy as possible. For more information, give us a call at 417-655-0866.